The Last Days of Derrida

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on July 20 about the conflict between the University of California at Irvine and the heirs of Jacques Derrida over the scholar’s papers and letters. Irvine has sued Derrida’s widow and family for the papers, which they say Derrida promised to the school’s library.

Entangled in the lawsuit is another case also pending at Irvine, a sexual harassment charge brought against professor Dragan Kujundzic by a female graduate student. Kujundzic wrote a letter to Derrida, asking him for help. Derrida sent a letter to the university defending Kujundzic and threatening to withdraw his promise to donate his papers to the library, an agreement that was decidedly informal and one that was never witnessed or notarized.

The article paints a picture of Derrida in his last days, a man haunted by the specter of his coming death and intensely worried about his legacy. It is not the playful Derrida we remember from his writings and from the 2002 documentary that shares his name. Instead, the Chronicle shows us a fiercely loyal and extremely human deconstructionist at the end of his life.

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